The Absent

How did they get there? By what invitation? From what beautiful world did they come?

They did not arrive. They are not there.

Were there flyers, emails, phone calls, text messages, postcards? These are broken birds’ wings. Their host has disappeared. Scattered, they move about vast cities, blocks of stacked ice, who flung them there? Are they there? One on top of the other. How many are there? Where are we? Do we think we recognize the spacious lounges, the beaches, the terraces, luxury, peace? Insensitivity. Cold-blooded breasts, hard nipples, thongs, naked bodies at rest, youth thrown like dollars into crammed space.

Silence. What music? Endless music and incessant silence, deafening music which cuts the sound of voices and which cannot be heard. Speechless stories. Unchallenged stories. Who gathered them? Are they together? The host has vanished. Where to? Where am I? Outside of the frame? I want to step inside. To drink that champagne, wear those heavy jewels, those bits of fabric clinging here and there to my body, those lance pennons. Who is rejecting me? The canvas is rejecting me. There is no room. Have I arrived too late? No, too soon. From a time when bodies clutter. How have they shed their skin? But no, do you not see? They never donned it, they are not there. Are they handsome? Are they enjoying themselves? Do you not see they are not? I do. Perhaps they will enjoy themselves? What is brewing? Nothing. Will nothing happen? Nothing is happening, nothing will happen, you can see that no dogs bark. I see no dogs. Who says “I”? To whom do you say “you”?

The soft bell-end penises of circumcised boys, balero breasts of girls with shaved pubes, smooth tanned skin, thin, slender, perfect, larger than life, demi-gods? They have no eyes, just marbles frozen in vacuity, who among them looks at the other? No he looks at him, no he at her, no she at him, no she at her. Exclusively.

Is anyone there? No answer. Do you dare knock at the door of their bodies? Keep ringing, the loft is empty, the loft that is each of their bodies. Where have their souls gone to? Their what? Their souls, you know very well what I mean. Me, who are you? Why do you call me “you”? To whom did Zarathustra speak? Are these the Supermen? They are so handsome and so tall. Where are their animals? Where is the garden, the mountain, God’s grave? Shush, this has never existed. Where is the ocean? Where is the beginning of the world, where is the end, where is the book? Silence, do not speak obscenities.

I long to touch this boy, and that girl too, and this one here. I am the invisible woman, having entered without trespassing into quiescent time.

Nobody sees himself. Silence howls. The space between them woven with a razor blade. No one looks me in the eyes, my eyes have burst for them, hollowed, no one knows that facing them is a human being, the painter, the viewer, me. How so, “me”? How could you say “me”, you who no one here sees, you, washed by the canvas of all existence, you, emptied of your soul by your gutted orbits, gutted by the unseeing of those who have no eyes, who have no eyes for you nor for anyone. You, stupefied by this jam-packed nothingness, jam-packed like public transportation at rush hours, jam-packed like the woman bound by sadistic desire. You, fettered by your bridling desire to step into the canvas, to saunter about in the painstaking chaos of motionless, fake, bodies. But there is nonetheless flesh, is there not?

Is it not there, in your gaze? It is in my flesh, my flesh which dulls the painting, the medium which, with brush strokes, the painter-man did not try to hide nor to polish; the medium, sperm of the painter-man delineating the disabuse of his larger-than-self gaze, iridescent color, sperm-iris of his desire annihilated by these fantasies too large for him, these fantasies imposed upon his artist’s hand, imposing. Did the men and women of flesh pose? Were these scenes genuine, was there a studio awash with models frozen in a charmless calculation, a cold collusion, a tamed excitement? Did they fuck?

Yes, that’s it, in the end: DID THEY FUCK? Will they? Are they presently, and so that I will not see anything? Let me see! At least let me see! Why are they not looking at me? So is there nothing? Is it all endless? When the abandon, when the satisfaction, when the sweet pleasure that follows? My painter, why did you leave me?

Their skin is radiant, their lips are severe. What kind of beauty speaks to me here? You are told nothing, can’t you hear? Silence howls, that of the razor blades which one does not see, that of tears, or saliva, of the juices of men and women which do not flow, that of my tongue which cannot steal beneath the thongs, of my apertures to which no one makes promises, their distant indecency which compels me to good-manners, no small word has the right of being uttered here, watch and keep quiet.

I want to be there, to invite myself into the conversation. What conversation? No one is saying anything, their lips scatter like their gazes. They, so light, lips eyelids shoulders surrendered to the laws of gravity. Where is the sky, where are the high ceilings? Where are the gorges toppled in joy? What kind of party is this? Neither party nor beauty, if you call party intoxication and beauty the vivacious soul of the divinely manifested.

What you see here is your own nerve bleached until paralysis in the fire of your anguish, these razors between the invisible bodies and nevertheless reflected in the radiance of skin and hair, the silence of faces, the satiety of unquenched nudity, the mutism of muscles.

Here is a painter, Terry Rodgers, who paints the desert by multiplying bodies. Deserted by a desire exhausted by absence, hopelessness which is ignored like everything is here ignored. Drink this is my glass of champagne; eat this does not eat bread – this will abandon you to your thirst and your hunger, this, eremite, will tempt you beyond all temptation, will tempt you until it makes you cede to the temptation of forgetting all temptation, this will lie to you, will tempt you, yet without inciting you to resist or to cede, these are not the diabolic chimeras which the desert gives birth to, these are not many, nor are these one, these are zero, these are emptiness itself.

Do you not feel as though the floor has slipped from underneath you, as though the sky were missing, and that you do not even suffer from all of this? Are you afraid of love, afraid of the other? Here, finally, the time of radiant indifference has come, of non-difference matchlessly achieved. The sky ends up missing but it is not missing because no one knows it – have they forsaken to understand that which is called sky?

How so, “they”? Who do you speak of? This is not a gathering of half-naked men and women, this is a painting projected forth from a man’s brain onto a canvas; this is a brainial excretion.

He is the landlord, who opens his vast château with brushstrokes as keys, the man-painter of hosts stacked up, the way shadows cluster and swell in solitary nights, when desire knocks at bedroom windows. Beauty tendered and beauty denied! A grey medium, strange human flesh, has drenched you in color. You, decoys of nothingness, who oblige me, in all your disdain, to see in myself that which you show me: my spiritual death and distantly, very distantly hidden in my own palace, the bud of life which wants to burst onto the canvas of the world in order to bloom in broad daylight.


Translated from the French by Britt Curley